Review: Silver Linings Playbook
PLOT: Against doctor's orders, Pat (Bradley Cooper) a former high school teacher who was committed after a violent incident with his estranged wife, is bailed out the mental hospital by his mother Dolores (Jacki Weaver). She brings him home to stay with her and his father, Pat Sr., (Robert De Niro) who's recently lost his job, and is making ends meet as a bookie. Determined to win back his wife, Pat embarks on a campaign of self-improvement, but is distracted by his young neighbour Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence)- a self-destructive young widow with a passion for ballroom dancing, who's fixated on him.
REVIEW: Sometimes, you're at a screening of a movie that just goes so damn well that you know it'll be a smash in every sense of the word. This is especially true if the screening happens to be at 830 in the morning, for the very tired and jaded international press. But, from the laughter and applause throughout, it really felt like I was watching another UP IN THE AIR, and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is truly a film that's playing on that level.
Based on the book by Matthew Quick, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is director David O. Russell's follow-up to THE FIGHTER, and probably a film that will get him a best director Oscar nomination. Imagine a less wacky FLIRTING WITH DISASTER, mixed with the best work of Cameron Crowe and Jason Reitman, and you have an inkling of what this is.
The movie hinges on the performances of stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who really seemed like a romantic miss-match to me when I heard they'd be playing the leads. Lawrence is 22 compared to Cooper's 37, and she's supposed to be playing a widow. Luckily, she can play older, and it's her performance that's getting the most buzz, as she seems like a shoo-in for an Oscar nod. She's nutty, but never zany (an important distinction), acidly tart, but never bitchy, and conveys a certain intelligence and weariness that I didn't think such a young actress could pull off.
As for Cooper, this is a tailor made part, with Russell bringing out the same manic energy from him that he was able to get from Mark Wahlberg back in I HEART HUCKABEES (a great performance in a so-so film). As Pat, Cooper doesn't play him as totally-innocent, but rather conveys someone that truly is mentally ill, with his violent mood-swings being convincingly scary (going to far as to hit his mother in one scene). Yet- while he's often an asshole, he'll always have your sympathy.
Miracle of miracles, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK also finally gives Robert De Niro a part that's worthy of him as Cooper's possibly OCD, sports bookie father (the Philadelphia Eagles play a big part here)- and De Niro seems to be relishing the material. Along with Jacki Weaver (in a total departure from her other maternal role in ANIMAL KINGDOM), he manages to pull a lot of layers out of a character that could have been two-dimensional, and it's probably his best work in a decade.
Speaking of returns to form, Chris Tucker also has a rare role outside of the RUSH HOUR franchise as Cooper's fellow mental patient, who escapes the hospital now and again to offer some amusing support. While he's almost completely extraneous to the plot, he's a welcome presence, and is very funny (he should make more movies- dude is talented).
Suffice to say, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is one you'll all be hearing plenty about in the months to come. It's a crowd-pleaser if I've ever seen one, and something that will have plenty of mileage come awards season. A best picture nomination seems a lock.
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|Extra Tidbit:||Originally published on September 12th, 2012, as part of our TIFF coverage.|